by Robert Brow ( Kingston, Ontario February 2008

 For the purposes of this article we will use a wider definition of a
 tribe as a grouping of people whose loyalty to their group is greater
 than their loyalty to a nation.
 It is easy to see the tragic effects of tribalism in African nations.
 But by our definition Belgium is in danger of breaking up into Flemish
 and French speaking areas. This happened when Czechoslovakia broke up
 into what is now known as the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Canada
 faced a similar danger in French Quebec.
 Often a nation has come into being when tribal power was broken.
 William I invaded England (1066) and brought the country under
 military control. His son Henri I (1100-35) was then able to establish
 a unified system of government which continues to this day. In
 Scotland the various clans had vied for dominance, which enabled the
 English to keep some power over them. Finally at the Battle of
 Bannockburn (1314) the clans united to defeat the common enemy and
 Scotland gained recognition as an independent country (1328). Now the
 clan tartans have only a sentimental value for those who wear them.
 In India a dozen or so distinct linguistic groups in the sub-continent
 were formed into one country by the British who ruled them for a
 hundred years (1858-1947). The loyalty to Islam was too strong for
 Muslims to remain under Hindu India, and this resulted in the
 establishment of Pakistan, and later Bangladesh. Pakistan has
 continual problems with the fierce warring tribes which control the
 area to the north.
 In the resolution of tribal conflicts we do not hear of the examples
 where Christians have been peacemakers. Christians have generally been
 opposed to tribalism and given their support to the government of their
 country. This is due to some strong New Testament texts. "For the Lord's
 sake accept the authority of every institution ordained for human
 beings" (1 Peter 2:13 margin). "Let every person be subject to the
 governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and
 those authorities that exist have been instituted by God" (Romans
 As a counter example we might point to the thirty years war in Germany
 between Roman Catholics in the south and the Lutheran Protestants in
 the north. But when this began the area we now call Germany was made
 up of 150 petty states at war with one another. A united German only
 emerged when Napoleon destroyed the Holy Roman Empire (1806), and the
 German Confederation was created at the Congress of Vienna (1815).
 Why would God be opposed to tribalism ? An obvious answer is that
 tribal warfare results in death and disruption of the lives of
 innocent people. Paul gave a deeper reason when he explained to the
 Athenians "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole
 earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries
 of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God
 and perhaps grope for him and find him" (Acts 17:26-27). Stable
 government gives people the leisure to love one another and seek and
 find God. Tribalism has the opposite effect.

Robert Brow


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